Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Little Bit About Me

In the style of "25 Things I Love About My Ham Sandwich," we have another joint blogging effort making the rounds. This one was started by Lisa from From One Country to Another and is great way to learn a bit more about each other.

1. How long have you been with your husband?

We met in the Spring of 2005 and married on July 11th, 2007.

2. Can you remember one funny miscommunication because of language barriers?

We have a lot of these. I am fully bilingual now so most of the humor comes from my husband at this point. One that comes to mind happened while watching a movie with a child whose character's name was Cameron. Over an hour into the movie (which we were watching in English with Spanish subtitles,) my husband turns to me and says, "That poor kid, why does his mom keep calling him camarón, he doesn't seem that little for his age!"

He thought they were calling the kid "shrimp" the whole time. Epic.

3. What state / and or city have you relocated to?

Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico

4. Do you and your hubby have any children, How old?

I have an 8 year old son and my husband has a 10 year old daughter, both from previous relationships.

5. What is one things thing that your blogger friends don't know about you?

Generally speaking, I am a ridiculously open book so there probably isn't a lot you haven't heard in the past year. I don't think I've never mentioned that I don't like people in my kitchen. I have been known to scream and cry when my husband tries to hang around while I make dinner. He just does it to drive me crazy. I know. I'm awful. I've even given my own mother the boot. I just can't handle the chaos of additional bodies in my culinary bubble. I hate the American trend of open concept floor plans and pine for a kitchen that is closed off from the world. I once heard on an episode of House Hunters International that mine is a typical European opinion about the kitchen so it looks like I'm not getting relief anytime soon. We will live in the Americas forever I'm sure. Bottom line... stay out of my kitchen. Sorry.

6. What are some of your favorite hobbies or past times?

I love movies of all types. I am newly obsessed with Spanish films from the 1960's but watch a lot of American and British independent flicks because they are my husband's favorite.

I love to cook, write, draw, sing, drink and eat. I am also a mix-tape master.

My idea of the perfect day involves a movie marathon, my entire family, and copious amounts of chicken wings, wine and ice cream.

7. How did you stumble upon the blogging community?

The first blog I ever read religiously was Half of Me which has changed drastically over the years but I still love it. I came upon expat blogs via Facebook and networking with others who are in similar situations. Expat blogging is still relatively new to me and I am almost overwhelmed at all there is to read and keep up with. I really wish that I could get an email every time people post. If I follow your blog and you would like to add me to your email recipient list I would greatly appreciate it.

8. Have you learned something new about yourself during this whole process that has changed all of our lives?

I've learned that I can handle so much more than I ever thought I could. This process has completely changed me for the better. A year ago I was a very negative, impatient, immature and entitled person. I suppose I am still all of those things but it is all to a lesser degree. I have a much better perspective on life and a better idea of "the big picture." I think Americans as a whole have a very skewed view of the difference between want and need and between right and privilege.

The most obvious change is in my optimism. I have never been a particularly positive person yet at this point my positivity has become annoying to some and people have even rejoiced when I do complain. I get it. I know it can be annoying at times. However, I can't be pissed off all the time because this is the only life I've got as Emily (yes, I believe in reincarnation... maybe that should've been the answer to #5) and I am determined to make the best of it.

9. Something that you love about Mexico and something that you cant stand or miss living without.

I love a lot of things about Mexico. First and foremost I love that my husband and I are both legally allowed to be here together and don't have hide in the house in fear like we did while living in Maricopa County. I love the emphasis on family instead of career. I love being able to get in a screaming fight or have my dogs barking at a bird for an hour and no one calls the cops. I love street food. I love that it snows here, but not enough that I have to bust out a shovel. I love being able to walk to anything I need even though I'm not in a city center. I love how warm and accepting the people are. I love my neighborhood and how EVERY SINGLE house looks completely, 100% different from the house next to it. I love Mexican pork chops.

Aside from family and friends, the thing I most hate living without is Barro's Pizza. I also cannot stand my daily commute crossing the border, the fact that no one is ever on time and all of the dust.

10. Did you know your in-laws before moving and has it been a big adjustment being closer to them?

I spoke to my in-laws on the phone on a weekly basis for a couple of years before we moved to Mexico. We did not move to my husband's hometown so we are still 7 hours away from his family in Hidalgo del Parral. It hasn't been an adjustment at all because we never really see them because of the distance coupled with our work schedules. I did have the opportunity to meet my MIL and one of my BILs during the first week we were here because they took a bus trip up to see us. I am happy to say that they were both just as awesome and caring and friendly as they had been in all of our phone calls. I had met my husband's other brother years ago when he lived in Arizona. This December I will be meeting the rest of the family and I'm sure I'll have much more to say at that point.

11. If you were going back to the states next week where is the first place you would go, of course after seeing your family?

I'm sorry but the first thing that comes to mind is restaurants. I suppose I am a foodie to the core. First I'd go to Barro's (duh,) then to Rubio's, then to Burrito Express, then to House of Eggroll, then to Filiberto's... and I'd top it off with a little Cold Stone Creamery.

I would also like to show my husband around my hometown, Kansas City, and do all of the typical American touristy things, like go to Disney World, Niagra Falls, Lake of the Ozarks or Six Flags.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

When It Rains It Sprinkles

This has been a bad week. Coming home from seeing my son is always hard in that "smack reality in your face" sort of way. I can't talk negatively because that's just not the new me. I feel like when I was planning my move to Mexico I was over-run with other forced expats about how terrible their lives were and how living in Mexico was some sort of punishment and that bothers me. I want to be that voice that represents the positive aspects of being forced out of your comfort zone. I want people to realize that a deportation does not equal the end of your marriage and/or your happiness. When I have these moments, it upsets me.

I naturally feel the urge to write and express myself, but at the same time, I don't want these petty moments to define me as a person. I came back from Missouri fully aware of my natural tendencies and emotions. This time was no different from others. I have been going through this for a few years now. Watching someone else raise my son. I can't even BEGIN to describe that feeling. I don't even know what to say, or do, or feel. This return was coupled with some serious issues in our home.

For starters my husband is giving his EVERYTHING to contribute to our household. While I was gone he worked 6am-6pm instead of 3pm-12am in attempts to contribute an additonal $17 US to our weekly income. He decided to keep going with that schedule upon my return. We are in somewhat of a self-inflicted, living-beyond-our-means financial crisis and he is determined to repair that. And so I have not seen my husband since Sunday. It's sad and admirable all at the same time.

In addition to all of this emotional and financial stress while trying to make up for my 3 missed work days, we have been having all sorts of problems with our house. The roof is leaking terribly, enough to fill a 20 gallon bucket in a matter of a couple hours and our A/C recently went out. To top it all off our landlord's phone numbers are disconnected so we have no means to rectify the situation.

The only remaining option is to move, which we fully intend on doing. There is a house, 2 doors down from ours, for rent. We love our street and want nothing more than to continue living here. It is unfortunate that our house is literally falling apart at the seams, because we fully intended on staying here until we could purchase a home of our own.

This entire situation is hellish, but at the same time it is refreshingly humbling. There is no reason that I cannot live with a leaky roof or without A/C in 100F+ weather. This is not the worst thing I have ever encountered in my life nor will it define me. So why should I let it over-take my emotions?

The answer is that I shouldn't. The answer is that these situations, when I am not PERFECTLY comfortable, are a blessing. I am learning. I am learning how to do without air, or cable TV, or a dry home. I am learning that I should be beyond grateful to have a home at all. I am learning that nobody gives a crap if I don't have A/C because there are children out there dying from starvation as I type. These are the moments I have waited for my entire life. These are the moments my mother prepared me for. These are the moments that do define me even when I don't want them to. Silly, stupid, inconvenient moments. This is what turns boys into men. This is what humbles an entitled American. This is my savior.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Home Bittersweet Home

I'd like to preface this blog by saying that I have nothing important to say tonight and I'm in a nasty mood.

My life is torn in two different directions because of immigration. I know it doesn't seem like it to some because I don't talk about it much but I miss my family dearly. Not just my family, but my son. Yes I have a son and he lives in the US with my older sister. He has been living with her for years though; it is not due to the fact that I am here in Mexico. I would happily raise a child here in Juarez, but now's not the time. I won't go into why my son lives with my sister, because it's all so painful but it has much to do with my colored past. I felt the need to mention it and I suppose there's no time like the present. I have a lot of emotional turmoil that I suppress because the way things are is the way things are supposed to be and curling up in a ball crying about it all day won't change anything.

Anyway, I just got back from a long overdue trip to Missouri where I got to see my son, my older sister and her boyfriend, my nephews, my mom and step-dad, my 2 younger sisters, and a close friend from Arizona who was coincidentally in town on business. It was the first time I saw any of them in over a year. It was a short, 5 day trip but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. There's not much I can say other than the fact that I had an incredible time. We didn't do anything particularly special and that's usually the way I like it. There's nothing I would rather do with my family than just lounge around the house and enjoy each other's company. It will be a year before I see any of them again due to my work/vacation schedule. Hopefully after this next year I can go back to doing more regular visits.

5 days in the US can be a real eye opener in many ways. Part of me longed for Mexico the entire time I was gone and for the first time ever, it wasn't just because I missed my husband. Setting aside the obvious joys of being with my family, I took the time to appreciate the bath tub and being able to walk around barefoot and seeing all the greenery and eating real pizza and sleeping in and not having to wait in line for anything more than some fast food. On the other hand I missed being able to walk to the corner for tacos at 10 o'clock and the humidity drove me crazy and the gas was expensive and everything seemed so cookie-cutter. I even missed speaking Spanish and found myself speaking it to no one in particular or on accident to others on many occasions. Interesting revelation.

I should be relaxed and content after this vacation, but I'm not. I'm completely stressed from an insane first day back at work and missing my son like crazy and exhausted from the commute and angry at the world because I can't hook my washing machine up to the spicket and I cut my thumb 7 times trying to. :sigh: Remind me that I am lucky I don't have to hand wash. Please.

There's not much else to say. I'm sorry this blog is so random with no sense of direction or purpose. I suppose that's just how my mind is working tonight. I'm going to spend the rest of my evening trying to get out of this bad mood because bad moods are for suckers.

Life is what you make it. Life it what you make it. Life is what you make it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Who are you hanging out with tonight?

I wasn't planning on blogging tonight but my husband just called to tell me that his manager was murdered last night. Everyone at the factory is obviously very sad, as am I. My husband says he doesn't understand. He says his boss was a good man. He didn't do drugs, he didn't hang around with criminals, he wasn't involved in human trafficking. So what happened? Well, he was drinking with 2 people that he barely knew outside his house and someone drove by and shot all 3 of them. That's what happened.

This is where you have to go above and beyond common sense and street smarts in Juarez. In life, it's a given that you should "be careful who your friends are." But in Juarez? Your choice of friends can be a life or death decision 9 times out of 10. And the hard part is this: Drug dealers are fathers and mothers and accountants and real estate agents and sons and sisters and cousins and restaurant owners and church-goers and security guards and school teachers. They are people who are loved probably more than they are hated. And, nowadays, they're not just drug addicts and drunks trying to keep themselves high. They are professionals. These people are the employees of millionaires or millionaires themselves. The Sinaloa Cartel and The Zetas aren't mom and pop shops. They feed the world's (:cough: America's :cough:) addictions. It's a multi-billion dollar industry and everybody wants a piece.

It's hard to know who's trying to take a slice of the pie and who's just trying to stay alive. This is why I am always harping on my husband about who he associates with at work. It's sad but I am constantly telling him not to make friends. An innocent friendship can turn deadly in a second and it's scary and sad and uncertain. But this is life. The world isn't all safe and cookies & milk and perfectly planned suburban neighborhoods and fulfilling jobs that pay 40k a year. This is real. As my stepdad always says, "this is what separates the men from the boys." These are the times that I have to put on my big girl pants and be judgmental and snobby and say, "Hell no, I don't want to be your friend, and yes, it's just because I'm paranoid." On to the next one...

I try to not think too much about the immense saddness of any of this. Everyone may consider me to be some heartless bitch, but I can only take it for what it is. I cannot dwell on it and squander my days away in fear. Some people seem to think I am naive about what is going on in Mexico. I'm here to assure you that I am not. I am more aware of this reality than you could ever imagine. But what am I supposed to do? Do I move? Where would I move to? We could move to the interior and try to muster a life out of 300 pesos a week while I default on student loans and stop sending money to my son. We could pick another border town and wait for the same crap to go down there. I could frequent protest rallies and activist's groups against violence and risk everything by putting myself in the spotlight while I tried to change the world. I could be selfish and save myself while there's still a chance and we could live apart for the next 10 years and pray that our marriage doesn't become another statistic.

Or I could just accept that I have to be careful and take each day as it comes and look after my family as if it were the last slice of bacon in a kitchen full of Emilys. I pick the latter. I choose to accept that life isn't always what you think it will be and this... this fucked up situation in Juarez isn't going to ruin my life. It is going to teach me and change me in ways I never, ever would have expected.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Anniversary Staycation

Our 4 year wedding anniversary is on Monday. My husband isn't one to really celebrate anything and I think that stems from his upbringing. They couldn't afford to have parties and gifts all the time like we are accustomed to in America. Maybe you got a cake on your birthday and on Christmas everyone drew names out of a hat and everyone got one present. When it comes to the Christmas traditions, I'm on board; I feel as though the American tradition of showering each other with lavish gifts only contributes to the entitlement issue. But no cake on birthdays? No anniversary dinner? That's no fun at all.

And so, over the last six years I have been rewiring my husband to find these days to be as special as I believe them to be. He is still sluggish to get on my bandwagon though. Which is why I took it upon myself to plan a surprise anniversary weekend for him. About a week ago I told him that I had a surprise for him. He hates surprises. He spent the last week trying to guess what it was. It went something like this:

Is it a shirt?

No babe, it's not really a present for you, it's more of a present for both of us.

Is it the entire series of Deadwood on DVD?!

Nope, that's not it either. It's something we can do together.

Well, we could watch Deadwood together...

Dude, it's not Deadwood.

So what letter does it begin and end with?

I'm not playing your games; it's a surprise.

I hate surprises. It better not be a party.

Apparently my husband's worst nightmare is that someone will throw him a surprise party. I'm not sure what that's all about. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him squirm with curiosity. I had planned to secretly pack his bag while he slept on Saturday morning. As I made my mental checklist I realized I had no idea where my bathing suit was. I looked everywhere. I went through all of the boxes of old clothes that I still haven't unpacked since we moved here 11 months ago. I even went as far to call my friends in Arizona and ask them if they remembered where I packed it. They told me to check the bathroom door knob. Funny, but no dice. Let me tell you, I may be Mrs. Organization at work but I couldn't find a towel or a mop in my own house to save my life. I had to call and ask Gordo. That really threw him for a loop. His worst nightmare may be some unexpected party but mine would be having to go to a water park right now and he knows that. He had NO CLUE why I would want my bathing suit. My response was super suave.

I... ummm... I'm really... hot? Yeah I'm hot. I'm so hot I thought it might be nice to walk around in my swimsuit.

Why don't you just wear your underwear then?

Well... it's... uh... not as... you know.

No, actually, I don't know.


Is my surprise that we're going to the water park? Are you throwing my a surprise party at the water park?!

Hahaaaa... that would be fantastic, right? Let's combine both of our worst nightmares into one. Super. I assured him we weren't going to the water park and just hung up the phone. Luckily, I ended up finding my suit hanging up in the closet next to my dresses. Makes sense to me.

First we went to dinner at Chili's. I don't care if I'm in a foreign country with countless delicious Mexican restaurants. I love me some Chili's. We gorged like the gluttons that we are. 2 for 1 appetizers, 2 for 1 margaritas. Nom nom nom. Some nachos and fajitas and a couple of jalapeno margaritas later, I told him what we were doing. I had reserved a room at the Hampton Inn and Suites here in Juarez. It was really the perfect solution considering we can't really afford to go out of town, but we really needed to get away.

The hotel came recommended by a good friend and totally lived up to the description. When we got there they were having a free happy hour. There was tostadas, pasta salad, chips, popcorn, sodas, beer and Bacardi. I felt a little silly to have spent so much at dinner, but I had thought the happy hour thing was only Monday through Friday. We managed to get a couple of beers down just to take advantage of the situation but we were just too stuffed for anything else.

The room was like... America. There was carpet and clean, white, dust free linens. There was refrigerated air conditioning and a bath tub. We hadn't taken a bath in almost a year. It was such a treat. We didn't get to take advantage of the pool which kind of made my whole swimsuit search pointless. The pool was packed with rich, 20-something Juarenses. They were shoulder to shoulder on the patio drinking Tecate with their fancy SUVs on rims in plain sight. Setting aside the fact that there really wasn't room for us in the pool, we both felt instantly paranoid around these rich kids. Who knows if their wealth comes from their drug dealing daddies or their mother with a medical degree? It's hard to tell in Juarez and a risky game when you don't know. We try to distance ourselves from that type of crowd.

It turned out that we didn't need the pool to enjoy our time though. We got drunk in the room and watched HBO and walked around barefoot (!!) and talked about our dream house and turned the A/C down to 65 degrees and took :gasp: baths. It was so much fun. We couldn't believe how much we missed these little things that seems so simple to us in the US. However, it was nice to know that we have adjusted to living without them, and realize that they are just luxurious extras. They don't make or break our existence.

We slept in until 9 and went downstairs for our "Continental Breakfast." There was chilaquiles, beans, eggs, winnies with chile and onion (that was SO Juarez), biscuits, bagels, toast, fresh fruit, donuts, cereal, juice and waffles. I'll be honest and say we had a little bit of everything. We chatted and tried to guess why people were staying at a hotel in Juarez.

What about that couple?

Oh their pissed off faces just scream "US Consulate."

And that guy? Visa appointment?

Nah, I think he's here on business. He looks scared.

And that family?

Clearly visiting Grandma.

We like to people watch. We got to do plenty of that. After breakfast we headed to the mall to catch a midday movie with friends. After an oddly descriptive explanation from my husband of how to install an escalator, there was more people watching while we waited.

Oh look at the cute triplets!

Does that woman have a penis?

Who wears their pajamas to the movies?

Is that lady white?

We saw the new Transformers movie in English with Spanish subtitles. I'm really glad that we didn't catch the dubbed version because it ended up being as hilarious as it was action-packed. I'm sure that humor would have been lost in translation.

All in all, the weekend was amazing. I highly recommend a staycation for anyone else who really needs to get away but just can't afford it. I am now off to convince myself that I am happy to have a job, and not depressed because tomorrow is Monday and I'll be back on the grind. I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! Remember to make it a great day, or not, the choice is yours.

Monday, July 4, 2011

25 Things I Love About My Ham Sandwich

In light of some of the comments posted in response to a recent news article featuring this and 2 other expat blogs, I'd like to take a moment to tell you how much I love my ham sandwich. Yes, that's right, after being called a narcissistic whore who "married down" to a man with zero dollars in his bank account, I was informed that "a woman (can be so desperate she) would marry a ham sandwich."

I find these comments hilarious, and it's not just because I'm a pork fanatic. My husband is... quite frankly the best thing that ever happened to me. (There are some tears rolling now.) I don't really even know where to begin. I'm sure everyone realizes that I must really love the man to have uprooted my life and left everything I've ever known to move to his country but I don't think I've ever really, truly touched on this. The ignorant, presumptuous comments coupled with a conversation I had with my mother a few days ago have inspired this post. And so, without further ado... here are 25 things I love about my husband.

1. When I am really, really pissed at him to the point that I am ignoring him entirely, he glances at me from across the room with this stupid grin on his face. That stupid grin, in that stupid angry moment, always (and I mean always) causes me to burst out laughing, to the point that I forget why I was mad in the first place.

2. When the handy man was supposed to come fix the swamp cooler 3 days ago, my husband says, "Forget that guy," and gets up on the roof (of a 2nd story house with no extension ladder) and fixes it himself.

3. He saved me. When I say 'saved,' I mean he literally scraped my pathetic, emotional remains off of the concrete and reminded me what life was really all about.

4. He makes the best corn tortillas from scratch and doesn't even use a press.

5. He was born and raised in a country full of machismo yet never complains when he mops the floor or does the laundry.

6. I've gained almost an entire person's worth of weight since we met and when I show him my skinny jeans that I wish I could wear he looks genuinely confused and asks if those are my sister's pants.

7. When I drink too much and end up doing Bill Cosby impersonations he is annoyed, but I can tell that if he knew who Bill Cosby was he would be laughing his ass off.

8. He is just like my dad.

9. He is just like my step-dad.

10. He makes the best bean, egg, jalapeno and onion guisado on the planet.

11. He cries every time he watches "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition".

12. He has more love, appreciation and patriotism for the United States of America than I do, and he isn't even allowed to go there.

13. Due to the quality of the Mexican public school system he had a seriously questionable education. Yet instead of being bitter and pretending he knew what he was talking about, he put his pride aside and let his wife teach him long division and basic geography when he was 26-years-old.

14. After over 6 years together, we can still stay up all night talking about nothing.

15. When we are down and out, he will take any (morally acceptable) job that can contribute to our family while I see other's spouses who feel too good to work a blue collar, minimum wage paying position, and sacrifice their family's well being for their pride.

16. He can change a tire, replace a fuel pump, lay tile, pour concrete or install an air conditioner with a smile on his face.

17. If he doesn't know how to do something, he just needs to study the situation/components for a bit, and he'll figure it out without utilizing Google or YouTube.

18. He respects, cherishes, and enjoys the true me.

19. He thinks I'm a good cook.

20. He values my opinion and even asks me for it!

21. He shares my love of all types of music and finds the Beatles as epic as Los Huracanes del Norte.

22. When I am losing my mind, being irrational, screaming at the top of my lungs, or crying my eyes out, he just sits there patiently and waits for me to finish with my outburst.

23. He would give me the world if he could but doesn't let our situation make him feel like a failure.

24. You don't have to speak his language to see that he is an amazing person. It can be observed in his body language, his actions and his facial expressions.

25. Each time I see him, I still get excited. There are still butterflies in my stomach and I know I made the right decision. I know every moment and every stuggle is worth it and that nothing can be wrong as long as we are together.